We had a lovely day for our butterfly and dragonfly walk last Saturday morning at Claude Moore Park in Sterling. With a slight breeze and upper 70s, it was perfect for not only the insects that we were looking for but also for all of us. Twenty-two people came out for the walk and it was great to have so many kids along with us! Being lower to the ground they’re great at spotting and helping with netting.
We started the walk at the garden in front of the visitors center and came across a number of butterflies known as skippers. Larry Meade helped with the id as these little guys often look similar with their brown and orange colors.
We then walked along the field and caught our first dragonfly. Andy Rabin, our leader for the walk, demonstrated the right way to use a net without harming the insect and showed the group how to hold a dragonfly without hurting it’s wings.
From here we meandered over to the little garden pond behind the house. Green frogs were calling and were very comfortable with us checking them out. We also saw our first Wood Nymph butterfly of the day. Normally less common, this butterfly became the most frequently spotted butterfly for us, with many regular species going unseen. We think the late spring rains have something to do with this.
As we walked through the field on the other side of the house, one of the kids spotted a Wandering Glider dragonfly. With Andy’s guidance, he put the net over the top of the dragonfly and it gracefully flew to the top as Andy predicted. Andy then removed it from the net. We all got to see the dragonfly close up and the kids got the experience holding a dragonfly (using the proper technique 🙂 ). They seemed to really enjoy it!
For the finale of the walk, we headed to the ponds. While female dragonflies hang out more near fields, males are over at the ponds patrolling their territories along the pond bank. I’ll provide a full list of our species seen below. While enjoying the dragonflies, we also spotted a Pearl Crescent butterfly which we put into a small viewing container for a few minutes for greater inspection.
All in all, a wonderful day, butterfly numbers and diversity were fewer than in the past but the dragonflies made a nice showing!
Here’s the full list of what we saw:
Dragonflies and Damselflies:Common Green Darner, Prince Baskettail, Halloween Pennant, Slaty Skimmer,Widow Skimmer, Common Whitetail, Blue Dasher, Wandering Glider, Spot-winged Glider, Eastern Amberwing, Carolina Saddlebags, Black Saddlebags, and Familiar Bluet.
Butterflies:Spicebush Swallowtail, Cabbage White, Clouded Sulpher, Eastern-tailed Blue, Silvery Checkerspot, Pearl Crescent, Red-spotted Purple, Common Wood Nymph, Monarch, Common Sootywing, Least Skipper, Fiery Skipper, Zabulon Skipper, Dun Skipper.
If you’d like to get your fill of butterflies this season – sign up for our Loudoun County Butterfly Count! It’s a great way to explore nature, contribute to citizen science and learn some new species of butterflies. All experience levels are welcome. We form teams that are led by experienced butterfliers (that’s a new word :)) and you can participate for the full day or just park of the day.
We also have a program this Sunday, The Magic of Monarchs – you can read more about that in our July nature programs calendar. I’ll be talking about the Monarch butterfly life cycle, habitat here and in Mexico, and the amazing phenomena of their migration to Mexico. Great for all ages!